Dorothy Wallace, longtime Native leader, dies at 89

Friends remember her for bead craft, bread and community work

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2006

Dorothy Wallace, a longtime leader in Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 2, died at her home Sunday afternoon after, as a younger friend put it, setting an example of how to live.

"Dorothy goes quite a bit into history, as do many of the elders who are still with us," said Cate Calvert Arriola, who met her in ANS in September 1991.

Arriola said the powerful social network was led by people who "protected their character and dignity along with the character and dignity of the organization."

Brian Wallace said his mother, who suffered a stroke on March 12, had held just about every office in the ANS. Her last elected position was as camp mother in November 2004.

Her Tlingit name was Natstklaa of the Kaagwaaantaan clan. She was born on July 27, 1916, in the Chichagof Island community of Chatham and came to Juneau in 1926. When she was 20, she married William Leslie Jack. After his death she remarried. Her second husband was Amos Louis Wallace, a master carver and fisherman she'd met in the 1920s. He died in May 2004 at the age of 83.

Brian Wallace said his mother used to talk about the steamer that brought them from Sitka and the stops it made. Except for a few months in Portland, Ore., and Southern California with her husband Amos, Dorothy Wallace lived her entire life in Alaska, he said.

Connie Munro said Dorothy Wallace made her feel at home after she moved to Juneau from Vermont in 1971. "She had the ability to talk to us about history and culture in a very positive way, very subtle. She was a lot of fun."

Dorothy Wallace worked hard for the community, Munro said, being named to the Juneau GED Hall of Fame for her work in adult education and recruitment of students into the program.

"She's very humble and works in a very quiet way, but she and Amos were always there at student reception and cooked for them," Munro said.

The Wallaces also were on the first committee to raise funds for restoration of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, where they were both lifetime members, Munro said.

And even with failing eyesight, Dorothy Wallace created the most beautiful beadwork, Munro said. She recalled times when Wallace would unexpectedly put some beautiful piece of craftsmanship in your hand - "and you know she'd been working on it for months."

Arriola said no one will ever forget Dorothy Wallace's Easter bread - with nuts and raisins and sprinkled with candy.

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"If you made it on her Easter bread list, you knew you were going somewhere," she said.

But one of the greatest things Arriola said she got from Dorothy Wallace recently was a lesson in the importance of being close to people. Arriola said near the end of her life Dorothy could no longer talk when Arriola came to visit and put her hand on her ailing friend's shoulder. As she got up to leave, she realized how important it was for her to be there when Dorothy grabbed her hand and put it back on her shoulder.

Brian Wallace said memorial services planned for the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall and funeral services at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church are pending.



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